What is Mind?
Reasoning and logic are intellectual processes that require types of study to permit the student access to different forms of thinking. This has to do with words: the most mysterious form of communications known. What a word means is not usually the intent with which it is used. Very few people know what people are saying because they, themselves, don’t know what they mean.
The ideas of Zen are very plain and easy to understand if you see the incredulity in doing so. For example, if I ask you to explain how you breathe in and out without thinking, you would tell me that it is a natural thing and that you don’t even have to think about it. On the other hand, you might give me a complete medical analysis, which would perhaps answer the question but be boring as hell. I imagine that if we had to think about breathing in and out, we would all be dead.
The idea of Mind takes into consideration any definition you might care to give it. God, Eternity, the Unknown, all are good if you care to have some word to describe it. It is essential that you understand what was before there was nothing, which by definition could not possibly exist. This is tricky, but consider the beginning of time, which can’t be done, but let’s try anyway. In the beginning there was not even a void. The idea of a void would suggest a thing. That is erroneous. Before the Big Bang, what was there? Zippo! Not even the idea of itself. That is the pure state of beingness that permits Mind to exist as unfettered. At that level of understanding, you are enlightened because you don’t have to be. You simply are—or are not.
Concepts of “because” also create hardship in trying to understand the relevance of your own creation. You are a “thing,” or you are not a “thing.” The situations you find yourself in are based on your trying to define your own reason for existence, which is the only thing you can do, being that you are in a finite condition. You have a body, and your body needs to be cared for in any manner you desire. “I am a rich man because I have worked very hard to acquire wealth. It is what I have always wanted.” “I love my husband because he treats me so fine.” How about, “I’m rich!” “I love!” without the conditional postulations. And, not after the fact, one way or another, but as the fact.
“It” (used to describe the thing itself) functions based on an acceptance of knowingness, not as a conditional suggestion to me to be that which I may only hope and wish for. Wishing and hoping is another story altogether—very negative concepts.
It is the self that creates the environment, and to suggest that nihilism or self-nullification would be the way to free yourself and to live a life of sloth is not the answer, nor is eating rice gruel and begging for sustenance while despising the “haves.”
Mind has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to categories of things that exist or do not exist. It is inconceivable to understand on any level the existence of anything prior to existence. The ideas of mysticism throughout the ages have always brought with it the concept of determining the indeterminate. That’s the beauty of relegating to ourselves the concept of God. If it can’t be explained, it has to be God. God as an idea creates the need within to seek for It without knowing what we are looking for. This is the start of the inevitable quest to understand the unknown and also carries with it the basis for duality: good, bad, right, wrong, yin, yang. The true premise of reality, though, is that there is no such thing as yin and yang, which is not to suggest that yin and yang do not exist.
Zen is the universe—the whole universe—including alternates and multiples, every flower and stone. However, it goes much deeper than that. The Way as an explainable thing cannot be the way at all. The thing that is named is not the thing itself but only words we use to identify it. The virtue of the Way is only a means for us to use in our actions and thoughts. The idea of Zen is not to be confused with Zen itself. It is a notion arising from the intellect that proceeds to bring us to the next higher level of understanding from that previously understood. It is not meant as a direction in a traveling sense, but rather as an approach/non-approach to a higher truth based on our own morality. Understanding comes through language, which is not to be construed as the use of words. It is intuitive language that I speak of, which although it does not use words, is clearly understood by those wishing to do so. This is based on personal choice and is not confusing when thoughtfully considered.
Stephen F. Kaufman has studied Asian philosophy for more than 60 years. He is ranked as “Hanshi,” the highest rank attainable in the martial arts and has taught Zen meditation classes for many years. To learn more about Mr. Kaufman and to purchase his books, visit http://www.hanshi.com and follow his author blog at http://hanshibooks.wordpress.com